Neologisms in Mohsin’s The Diary of a Social Butterfly


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Neologisms in Mohsin’s The Diary of a Social Butterfly


Department of English Govt. Postgraduate College for Women Satellite Town, Rawalpindi Pakistan


This research paper draws on Moni Mohsin‟s The Diary of a Social Butterfly (2009) which has earned fame as a journalistic literature within the South Asian literature. Apart from other striking features of this book, what engages the reader most is Mohsin‟s use of „Urduized‟ as well as „Punjabized‟ English. Mohsin ventures for many a novel and pungent flavor of English by creating new words or putting the existing words into a new ecology of context. My argument in this paper is that Mohsin‟s book provides a study of various kinds of neologisms and the examination of these novel creations will add new insights to lexicology as well as to the book itself. And since no study so far has been conducted in this regard, this will contribute something very original.

Keywords: word-formation, derivation, inflections, neologisms, Moni Mohsin

1. Introduction

English began to spread as a world language about four hundred years ago as a result of the adventurous spirit of the British. The language, however, grew at an unprecedented rate during the last fifty years or so and with this many non-natives Englishes also emerged. Consequently the perception that only the native speakers of English have the privilege to initiate changes and innovations in the language also changed. In the current scenario since English language has put down its roots on many soils, it is marked by the ecology of the contexts in which it is used. The same applies to our Pakistani context.

As a matter of fact, a large number of our people use English language but what is significant to note is that the use of English is intermixed with Urdu (our national language) and other indigenous languages. Among other reasons like style, prestige, status, fun etc regarding why people switch codes one thing which is worthy to be noticed is that switching of codes (English & Urdu mostly) has become rather an acceptable and a common phenomenon. It is the mixing of English and Urdu that has triggered many innovations and neologisms. Now the question whether these neologisms do contribute to the richness and vitality of the languages in use, e.g. English & Urdu, needs to be investigated and a number of Pakistani scholars are engaged in the area of bi/multilingual studies.


level too. Code switching and mixing is a part of the on-line or mobile chats and specific abbreviations, neologisms and malapropism are an integral part of our daily language contact, our socializing etc. This new language contact style has engaged scholars particularly in the sociolinguistic area to examine innovations within the local context also. Pakistani scholars are also in the attempt to trace new perspectives of research in the area of bilingualism seeking to study data from newspapers, TV shows or mobile chats or newly emerging genre of writing „chutny fiction‟ which is imbued with a wealth of code switching instances as is the case with the present study.

Pakistani writers writing in English language incorporate many words from Urdu, Punjabi or other regional languages. They have also invented new words out of necessity or cultural needs or borrowed words and used them in their writings. Many writers and poets like Kamila Shamsi, Mohsin Hamid, Jamil Ahmad, Taufiq Rafat and Moni Mohsin use words from their local languages and culture. A brief introduction of Moni Mohsin (2009) is to follow in Section 3 after research questions.

The present study focuses upon the following research questions to trace different kinds of neologisms in Mohsin‟s „The diary of a social butterfly‟.

2. Research Questions

Q. How far Mohsin attempts to go beyond the prescriptive norms of the English and Urdu languages so as to produce a work replete with linguistic creativity and neologism?

Q. What bi/multilingual innovations does Mohsin create in her book and how far these innovations contribute to the vitality and richness of the languages used?

3. Introduction of the writer

Moni Mohsin produced The End of Innocence in 2006 as her first literary venture. “The Diary of a Social Butterfly” used to appear fortnightly as satirical columns in the The Friday Times, a Pakistani English newspaper. These columns turned out to be a great success encouraging Mohsin to later compile them into a book which published in 2009. The book falls in the genre of journalistic literature but the treatment of the subject matter makes it a satire and can be titled as a political satire. For Pakistani society, this piece of literature unfolds political events between the year 2001 to 2008 and which affected the lives of many living in and outside the country. This book provides a good study from bi/multilingual perspective and is replete with innovative word-formations, different types of neologism and borrowings, thus going beyond the prescriptive norms of both English and Urdu.

4. Literature Review


4.1Scholarly perspectives on Mohsin’s work

Mohsin‟s „The Diary of a Social Butterfly‟ (2009) has not only gained momentum in the field of journalistic satire but has other specific features like mixing of codes, neologisms and innovations. In Mohsin‟s view every story has its own style. This is evident in her book as being a political satire interspersed with humor, fun and innovation in the intermixing of English, Urdu and at times Punjabi languages. This switching of codes is something which actually is seen as a part of the day-to-day life in our Pakistani set-up.

Not much work has been done on Mohsin‟s book and no study particularly regarding code switching has been conducted. However a few researches and a few on-line reviews of the book have been included in the review.

Haq (2014) in his article notes code mixing features in Mohsin‟s book. He states as follows: Mohsin has introduces a number of words in the book which can be termed as „desi‟, because they are a mixture of the languages: Urdu, Punjabi & English. These words as well as phrases include “three-tiara cake”, “paindu pastry”, “do number ka maal” etc.

Any reader can trace a number of „Urduized‟ and „Punjabized‟ innovations and new word formation in Mohsin‟s book. On account of this „desi‟ and „paindu paistry‟ blend of three languages in her book, Mohsin has been applauded by Salman Rushdi, a renowned Indian writer. In Rushdi‟s view, Mohsin seems to have invented a new genre of fiction, „chutney fiction‟, by writing this book. His comment basically refers to the writer‟s craftsmanship in transforming certain vocabulary of the English language, translating it within the local context and giving new shades of meaning to the already existing lexicology. For instance the use of lexical inventions like „three tiara cake‟ or „Shweeto‟ etc. makes her work to be included in the genre of a „chutney fiction‟.

Rushdi‟s Midnight Children is a similar kind of work in the same genre in which he explores a number of code mixing features. Krishnamurthy, in his article “The Chutnification of English: the study of the lexis of Salman Rushdie‟s Midnight‟s Children” not only explains the term „chutnification‟ but also underscores Rushdi‟s neologism and lexical inventions and how this kind of writing contributes to the richness of language. His statement is equally relevant to Mohsin‟s work as well. (Krishnamurthy 2010)

Mohsin (2009) has made her writing „tangy‟, „flavored‟ and „exciting‟ by introducing a „silly, socialite‟ Butterfly in her book who affixes the most innovative lexis with whatever English word she wishes to. For instance her comment about her cousin Oscar who has come from America and does not leave home due his fears about terrorism is noteworthy. She informs the reader, “Shweeto, Oscar‟s so worried worried about the bombs-shombs innocent jaisa. Just like a foreigner.” But “Janoo says he‟s just an ABCD”. Butterfly plays “luddo around the clock” and picks up only big brands. (2009, p:23, 45, 60)


So we get inspired locutions such as „proper-gainda‟, „bore-bore countries‟, „spoil spots‟, „What cheeks!‟ „principaled stand‟; there‟s hardly a sentence in the book that does not contain similar gems. (Time Magazine Asia, January 2009)

One of the blogs also reviewed Mohsin‟s book as having innovative mixing of language. The review interestingly commented on the book being „hilarious‟ and the reason being Butterfly‟s being „MISSPELLER’ andthe one who can spell and pronounce a word the way she wants. And the local slangs, aah, they are what make Butterfly's ridiculous English all the more gorgeous”. In the Introduction of “The Diary of a Social Butterfly”, the Butterfly herself gives a detailed account of her „desi‟ English while introducing herself, her family, relatives and friends and the way she uses solipsistic language. One chunk goes as follows:

I am very sophistry, … no GT—uff, … Get Tgether, baba—is complete without me. Naturally if you are going to be so socialist you also need the right wardrope and the right looks. So I have to get my designer joras and visit my beauty therapists and my jewelers, vaghera, na. (The Butterfly, Lahore, 2008)

What Rustom Barcucha (1994, p. 160) claims about Rushdie can also be stated about Mohsin with a little adaptation that she uses a language of her own that transcends any English that has been spiced with Pakistani words and expressions (Cited in Krishnamurthy 2010, p. 11). Mohsin‟s book definitely goes beyond the prescriptive rules of English as is validated from the scholarly views given above.

4.2Neologism defined

Neologism is a process of morphology through which new words are formed in a language. It serves the purpose of generating new words or forms of words in a language. Neologisms help in identifying any new phenomena, innovations as well as how old ideas might have taken up an altogether new cultural context. Neologisms reflect the socio-cultural situation in the text selected for present study.

Neologisms may be in the form of direct loans or newly coined terms and the coinage may be done either through morphological processes or by giving a new meaning to those words that are already there. Crystal (1992) defines Neologism as the creation of new lexical items on account of the changed circumstances in the surrounding world and these new creations become acceptable within a speech community at a particular time. Coined and created thus, the new words also make a unique contribution. These novel creations continuously enter the lexicon to describe new terms, hi-tech vocabulary and what meaning do they carry for us. Conversely, older words continually fall out of use as they decrease in cultural significance.


use all kinds of coinage, using words of everyday language (Yule 2006, p. 53) and creating newer ones.

4.3Researches on Neologism

Khan in his article Neologisms in Urdu elaborates upon the coinage of words and how neologism may be employed to study the variations or newness in a language. What he comments is significant in this regard, it goes as follows:

Neologism or coining new words is an important tool to study the variation or change in the language. Very often we coin innovative words to explain or describe new ideas and things, but importantly when there is no word presently available to more accurately express our thoughts or experiences. (2013, p. 7)

Slimane (2014) in his study on bilingualism and biculturalism examines the construction of innovative expressions or words in terms of their impact on the identity formation of the youth. This phenomenon is further supported by many other researchers. He states that the youth in Algeria are inclined towards modifying their language in a critical way leading to a shift from the traditional spoken variety based on the Arabic language to the emergence of a new variety which involves language change” (p. 16). Comparing this study with the fictional character in Mohsin‟s book „The Diary of a social butterfly‟ it can be commented that the female portrayal is a bilingual self using and same is the case with our young generation. The youth in the Pakistani society do show this impact. But it can safely be commented that the language change is unavoidable whether it affects people‟s perceptions and their outlooks etc.

Hoffer (2002) in his article on „Language borrowing and language diffusion: An overview‟, provides a detailed history of borrowing and the contact of different languages and expansion and enrichment of the lexicon of the languages in contact. He investigates this phenomenon in depth through his case study of the Japanese borrowing of English. In his article he incorporates other researchers such as Honna (1995), Miura (1979) among others who studied the influx of loan words into the Japanese language and the use of many „shortened compounds‟, „initials and acronyms‟ and many „reductions‟ which were in English by most of the Japanese people. For instance, Honna (1995) reported that as much „as 13% of the vocabulary in day-to-day use and 10% of the different words used in daily conversations are from English‟. Many researchers quoted in this article were of the view that this „influx of loanwords‟ is definitely the outcome of the cultural and linguistic contact of different people. (Miura 1979; Hoffer 2002; Hoffer & Honna 1988) The researchers were of the view that behind this influx, there is a long process of interaction and intermixing of people, their values, beliefs and languages and hence for researchers, this could provide interesting data to work on, e.g. phonological and semantic changes and variations etc.


various studies regarding these kinds of linguistic innovations. For instance the study done by Zuan (2013) is one such kind.

Zuan (2013) in his article “Creativity in English by bending the norms…” comments in his abstract on the current status of English asthe possession of no-one‟ and his examines through his research how this very perception has paved the way for the coinage of new lexical items, extensions or restrictions of lexical meaning emerging out of the existing one, or adaptations of sound patterns, morphology and syntax. Citing researchers like Maybin and Swan (2006) in his article to further validate the point that „creativity‟ is not an empty notion, rather creativity is an integral part of all language use and the users of language do not simplyreproduce but

recreate, refashion and recontextualize [my emphasis] linguistic as well as cultural

resources in the act of communication (p.491). Kachru (1985) coined the term bilinguals‟ creativity to refer to “those creative linguistic processes which are formed as a result of the competent use of two or more languages” (p. 20). Kachru, however, applies this term mainly to describe creativity in the field of literature. In all, creative use of English involves the attempt to go beyond the prescriptive norms. Therefore, the recreating, refashioning and recontextualizing of English involves the bending of the norms to meet the individual communicative needs. In addition, Kasanga (2004) shares the point that “linguistic creativity is triggered by new situations, experiences and thoughts” (p. 285). Also, the fact that English is the possession of no-one has laid way for the coinage of new lexical items, extensions or restrictions of lexical meaning of existing items emerge, or adaptations of sound patterns, morphology and syntax. (p. 93)

5. Framework of Analysis

The framework of analysis includes the study of lexis, word formation, borrowings and neologism.

5.1Lexical analysis

Lexis will be analyzed in three ways: Firstly, lexical deviation in the book will be traced. More significant is to note that deviation at lexical level eventually leads to innovation and neologism. Leech and Short (1970, p. 42) provide the definition of neologism as the invention of new words where “an existing rule (of word-formation) is applied with greater generality than is customary”. Alain Rey elaborates further that sentences, even if they are new, cannot be regarded as neologism. He further explains that neologism lies between a word and phrase and he calls this domain “the specific domain of lexicology” (2005, p. 313). He suggests that lexical units consist of morpheme words, complex words and certain “lexicalized” phrasal units. He states that neology can be explained in terms of the linguistic unit and the novelty of use.

I intend to employ qualitative as well as quantitative methods to study the data (Corpus) to be able to gain an insightful understanding of the bilingual innovations in the text. Further, the lexical fields to which the lexical items belong will also be traced. However, I do not plan to use frequency distribution of the lexical items in this methodology.

5.2 Word-formation


„mother‟ etc are regarded as roots and they are also free forms. Bound morphemes like „seg‟ in segment need another morpheme whether a root or an affix, to be attached to them. In case it is another root, the word formed thus becomes a compound, e.g. „kingship‟ or „cupboard‟, etc. If a bound root is not combined to another root, it is regarded as an affix, e.g. „compound‟ or „freedom‟ etc. In fact affixes modify the meaning of the root or stem and may not be carrying any meaning. They are limited in number as compared to roots and moreover, they may be suffixes or prefixes: e.g. (a) Prefix: co-exist, misconduct (b) Suffix: attent-ion, pink-ish, sister-hood, shame-less

(Stockwell & Minkova, 2001, p. 63).

5.3 Borrowings

Borrowing occurs as a result of the cultural contact and in the course of this contact the linguistic items from one to another language system get transferred. Einar Haugen‟s work (1950) is regarded to be the major influence on later researches. He was of the view that using language forms of two or more languages is not a random process. As a matter of fact, a speaker switches from one to the other language or the switch is made by inserting a word, a phrase or may be sentence. Haugen defined borrowing as “the attempted reproduction in one language of patterns previously found in another” (1950, p. 212).

Mohsin‟s book abounds in borrowings from various languages like Urdu, Punjabi as well as Hindi. The words will be placed under different lexical fields, such as food items, dresses, festivals and typical „Punjabized‟ and „Urduized‟ expressions and words of common vernacular uses etc.

6. Findings

This section contains a summary of the findings of the present study. It is important to mention that every category of the lexis mentioned underneath carries four to eight examples though there are numerous examples for each type of lexis. Examples exceeding this limited number have been included in the appendix.

6.1 Neologisms

The use of neologisms is the most significant feature in Mohsin‟s „The diary of a social butterfly‟. New words are created in different ways, e.g. (1) lexical forms which fall within morphology (b) those that come under borrowings and (3) forms that are not stable or predictable. The innovation arises when the root of a word and some affixation (suffix/prefix) are combined and form complex compounds or words. These novel combinations definitely move beyond the set and predictable rules of a language formation and therefore may enrich the lexicon of the languages involved. The neologisms traced in Mohsin‟s book fall mainly within of morphological types and borrowings.

6.2 Morphological Neologisms

6.2.1 First type of neologism

The first type of neologism where Urdu words (used in our Pakistani context) are given an English affixation is found in abundance in the book under study.


2. designer joras

3. chappals

4. Bhindis

5. Karelas

6. lootos three banks 7. charoos on my nerves

In the list given above data, example 1-3 fall in the category of dresses and shoes. The word „gharara‟ when affixed with English „s‟ gives plural meaning and it is a part of formal dress usually meant for brides or is used by a female attending marriage ceremony or so. „jora‟ is used in terms of dress for both formal and informal wearing and style. The third „chappal‟ is a kind of slipper for informal and casual use. 4-5 are vegetables and in our context the use of words like „bhindi‟, and „krela‟ are referred to as plurals but here with English affixation „s‟ they give the same meaning of quantity of being in bulk. The last affixation of „s‟ however is significant in the sense that a word „loot‟ is used both in English and Urdu but it has been used in Urduized way and the imerative „looto‟ the Urdu word has been used as a verb by adding „s‟ with it.

6.2.2 Second type of neologism

In this type of neologism English words are given an Urdu/Punjabi suffix, such as: 8. Uncle ji

9. Ma‟m ji

10. Nan Ji (No)

In Urdu or Punjabi, the suffix „ji‟ is attached to any word, may be a common or a proper noun which is regarded as a marker of respect or an honorific. The third here is interesting because it expresses polite disagreement typically used in our context.

6.2.3 Third type of neologism

The third type occurs when a root morpheme in Urdu is compounded with a root/bound morpheme in English. Examples:

11. shaadiseason 12. Tabahi wedding

13. shawl wallah 14. Electronic Tasbeeh


6.2.4 Fourth type of neologism

With „ed,‟ as an affixation makes the fourth type of neologisms in the present study. Bauer (1996, p. 93) states that mostly it is with adjectives that the suffix „ed‟ is used but these cases do have a head noun with them. For example in expressions like „red-faced‟ or „blue-eyed‟ where the base is formed is definitely formed by the head noun which gets modifies by the adjective. But Mohsin (2009) creates adjectival forms by using „ed‟ to the stem. For example:

15. Mistooked („ed‟ with the past participle „mistook‟) 16. Principaled stand („ed‟ with the noun principal) 17. Rreliefed („ed‟ with noun relief)

18. AC‟D rooms („d‟ with noun AC)

All these examples and a number of others from the book are instances of complex but innovative compounds. The use of „ed‟ in the above examples seems to perform adjectival function but in English „ed‟ is attached to create a non-finite form. This kind of neologism is highly innovative and goes beyond the prescriptive rules of the English language. The lexical items in The Diary of a Butterfly are innovative creations and hence neologisms.

6.2.5 Fifth type of neologism

This type of neologism is an „ing,‟ affixation which is found with a compound noun. For instance the following example shows the „ing‟ affixation with the noun „party‟.

19. partying

Bauer (1997, p. 97) explains that at times, some lexical forms or the more complex ones are uncommon and unique and to define them under some label or categorize them becomes difficult. He advises to evaluate these kinds of forms against those that already exist in the language and he calls this method an „analogy‟. The use of gerundial form is very frequent in English but in this case the instance has been used in an innovative fashion which does not conform to the prescriptive rules of English language and hence is innovation of its own kind. These kinds of instancs in Mohsin‟s book seem to perform the function of adjective.

7. Compound words(Neologisms)

Another lexical instance traced in the text under study falls in the type of compound words. Bauer (1996) defines compound words as “a lexeme with two or more potential stems which has not subsequently been subjected to a derivational process” (p. 29). In Mohsin‟s book, words are compounded in different ways which goes as follows.

7.2 Unusual collocations

There are many uncommon collocations in the Dairy of a Social Butterfly. Some examples are as follows:

20. damn fool crack


In the first instance, the noun „crack‟ has been added with „damn fool‟ which turns it into a unique expression. In our context these innovative uses performs the intensifying purposes. The word „crack‟ is very often used to show annoyance, anger and sometimes even love. Many intensifying terms or expressions such as „paindu paistry jesi shakl‟ are in common use in our society. In the second example „Desi‟ has been attached as a postnominal to create humorous effect and hence it invokes laughter with its „Punjabized‟ touch. In fact the word „desi‟ is used in contrast to „valeti‟ and the latter is used mostly derogatively for the „goras‟ or white people. The implication arising out of this phrase is that of ironical and derogatively used for a person who is a born American and yet „Desi‟ and „confused‟. The insertion of the word „tiyara‟ in the middle of the third phrase is highly unusual makes because it is an Urdu word which means aeroplane. The meaning which can be inferred from this neologism is a kind of cake which is stuffed with two-three layers and gains substance and eatable value in that sense.

7.3 Noun phrases

These are unusual noun phrases that have been traced in the book. A few examples are as follows:

24. little bit bonga 25. Twenty-whatkay bulb

7.4 Hyphenated Phrases

26. Funny-si look 27. Bore-sa village 28. Baggy-si jeans 29. Top-ki films

30. Wedding shedding 31. Balls-valls

32. Fat kothi

33. Fat-fat, fried-fried prawns 34. paindu paistry

In the first four instances, Urdu words „si‟, „sa‟ and „ki‟ have been inserted in the middle of the phrases which otherwise contain all English words. These inserted Urdu words form the equivalence to the English words such as „similar‟ or „like‟ used as a prepositions or to show some likeness. The suffixal use of like such as „child-like‟ is also seen. The innovation here is that by combining an Urdu suffix with an English word funny-si expands the vocabulary. The examples like wedding shedding are being used in the Urdu style because we often say „shaadi vaadi‟ or „menhdi shenhdi‟. In Urdu, the second part of such compounds like „vaadi‟ or shendhi‟ are known

as „Mohmil‟ or meaningless words and used mostly for generalization purposes. Such words are


8. Borrowings

This category consists of words borrowed from Urdu and Punjabi languages and the book is replete with such words. These borrowings are further sub-divided into different classes; e.g. common nouns in day-to-day use, words about Pakistani dishes, festivals, dresses, nouns related to skills such as tailoring and the like. These borrowings are found as inserted in between the phrases, clauses and sentences to create a „desi‟ product out of it.

8.1 Urdu/Punjabi words

35. Shahtooshe

36. Chaprasi

37. tamasha 38. Bonga 39. Panga

40. Patang

All lexical borrowings are picked up from day-to-day vocabulary which we use except the first example „shahtooshe‟ which Butterfly uses to refer to some specific color and as a mark of high quality shawls. Bonga is an Urdu equivalence of the English „silly‟ or „stupid‟.

8.2 Punjabized Nouns

41. Fillum (film) 42. Milluk shake (milk) 43. Toash (toast) 44. Unteek (antique)

8.3 Names of Festivals

45. Bakra Eid 46. Basant

8.4 Names of Pakistani dishes

47. mithai

48. Gulab Jamans

These are the traditional Pakistani sweet dishes.

8.5 Names of Pakistani clothing &Jewelry& weddings

49. Tops

50. dholak

51. Menhdi

52. Jamawar

53. jhumka


8.6Pakistani expressions

These borrowings are drawn from the typical Pakistani expressions which are massively used by people and some of them are typically associated women such as “Haw Hi”. As a matter of fact, these are common streets expressions and do not carry any specific meaning as such but depending on the context mean different things.

55. haw hi (expressing amazement, shock or mixed feelings at times) 56. Hi Allah

57. but chalo (to deliberately overlooking something) 58. Bus, enough is enough

59. Tauba taubab

60. Writing shiting

61. Club shab

The last two examples are typical Punjabi expressions and many people are accustomed to using them, as a habit and mostly for fun.

8.7 Abbreviations

62. Isloo (Islamabad) 63. GT (Get Together)

64. ABCD (American Born Confused Desi)

8.8 Idiomatic neologism

65. That‟s that 66. Around the clock 67. Nervous breakout

8.9Other languages

70. Bindi

71. Indian Moorti

„Bindi‟ is basically an Indian word since it is a part of the Indian culture that women wear „bindi‟ on their forehead as a part their traditional jewelry. However in Pakistan women also use it particularly on wedding ceremonies.

9 Conclusion


word-formation, derivation, inflections and neologisms formed through creative ways. The book is not only a good read as its being a critique of socio-political ailments of our society but is also an

insightful text for scholars who seek to work on bi/multilingual phenomenon.


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